Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman
held a special press conference Friday, following the announcement that the party has joined forces with Likud
ahead of the coming elections.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
and Lieberman refused to take questions from reporters after the announcement,
evoking harsh criticism from the media,
as well as other political parties.
"We have to create a new political reality of big parties," he said. "We are unlikely to have the same situation as they have in the United States,
of only two parties, but we must strive to reach a four-five parties situation. We have to guarantee governmental stability."
Lieberman stressed that the two parties will remain independent entities and that they will share the ticket for the sake of the elections only; further dismissing reports that the deal stemmed from both parties' decline in the polls.
"Talks about a unity deal began a year ago and the final decision was made almost two months ago," he told reporters.
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"We want to form a consistent, reliable and determined national camp and I have no doubt that will be reflected in the election campaign.
"I call on everyone in the political arena to do everything they can, even through legislation, to ensure a reality of four or five stable parties, instead of a reality of parties de-jour, that rise and fall… We have to stop this syndrome," he said.
The move has met fierce criticism in the Likud, and according to Likud sources, Lieberman agreed to join forces with the Likud as means of paving his way to the Prime Minister's Office.
It also sparked rumors about a backroom rotation deal which would see Netanyahu act as PM for the government's first three years before stepping aside so Lieberman can take over.
Lieberman was quick to deny the report: "There's no rotation agreement. I'm endorsing Netanyahu for a full four-year term," he told Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth.
Party members accused Netanyahu of selling the party out to ensure his political survival.
Political analysts said that it is likely that the move stemmed – at least partially – from fears over Ehud Olmert's
possible political comeback; or that Yisrael Beiteinu would join forces with another party.
Netanyahu reportedly told one of his close associates that he "Can't afford" to have Lieberman make such a move.
Yuval Karni is a is a Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth correspondent
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